This exhibition has been organized to coincide with the 2022 Southern Graphic Council International’s (SGCI) printmaking conference which is hosted by the UW-Madison Art Department this year. This exhibition, curated by the Tandem Press collaborative printmakers Jason Ruhl, Joe Freye, Patrick Smyczek, and Seth Klekamp, presents a behind-the-scenes view of a selection of Tandem Press prints and the printmaking materials used in their creation.
The exhibition, which begins in the Apex Gallery and continues upstairs into the Gabriele S. Haberland Contemporary Print Study Center, includes prints by a broad range of artists to demonstrate the expansive ways—from abstract expressionism to photographic representation—artists use the printmaking medium to engage with personal, political, social, and environmental themes.
The three woodblocks Alison Saar carved to create one of her newest prints, Blonde Dreams (2021), hang alongside the finished artwork. The physicality of the marks carved in the woodblocks not only reveals how Saar rendered the image for this print, but the deconstruction of the image, when viewed in this context, also heightens aspects of the conceptual narrative within her work. The print depicts a Black figure with cascading gold hair representative of white anglicized beauty standards. The dream of long blonde hair has hamstrung the woman. Just as the image is broken down across several woodblocks to create this print, the pressure to modify oneself to achieve social ideals has led the depicted woman to deconstruct and alter her natural self-expression.
Another woodblock, carved by Jim Dine with a chainsaw rather than typical wood chisels, is shown alongside two different prints, The Black and Red Heart (2013) and The New Building (2014). This woodblock, which was printed to create one of several layers in the final images, demonstrates a primary characteristic of the printmaking medium: the ability to print multiple images from the same block for various purposes.
In addition to showing examples of the materials used to create fine art prints, this exhibition also shares a unique view into the collaborative process that occurs in the Tandem Press studio between our collaborative printmakers and the artists. For example, a portfolio of working proofs with handwritten production notes is shown alongside nine prints from Suzanne Caporael’s Vandercook Suite (2013), and photographs of Caporael working in the studio with collaborative printmakers Joe Freye and Jason Ruhl accompany another of her prints, Montpelier, Ohio (2012). During the proofing or working process, the artist collaborates with the printmakers to try out different papers, ink colors, and printing techniques to select the materials and methods that best achieve the artist’s vision for the final artwork.